A NEW semi-professional clubs’ Super League of eight teams, partly funded by the Scottish Rugby Union, is at the heart of proposals announced today for a major shake-up in the oval ball game.
Under new strategic policy initiatives, also covering schools and women’s rugby and featuring four regional academies, the new competition would be introduced in season 2015-16.
There would be promotion and relegation for one team based on a play-off and the aim is to improve standards immediately below international and professional level – areas the authorities say show “the health of the Scottish game most visible”.
Strong emphasis in particular is to be placed on schools rugby where to expand the SRU will seek to make rugby a curriculum subject and introduce a supervised fixture list.
A new post of Head of Women’s Rugby is also to be created but it is at the top level of the men’s club game, which will see two teams drop out of that existing tier, that change will most impact.
The SRU have already attempted to answer likely criticisms of a takeover of the club game and say autonomy would largely remain despite central funding.
However, eligibility will be based on improved facilities, number of teams and a link to the women’s game.
“The current situation is not working – the gap in the quality of play has widened and it is clear the clubs need more help if standards are to improve. In return that does mean that SRU would require more influence,” says the policy document.
It is anticipated the top eight, who would be supported by a national league of 12 teams, can expect around 22 fixtures each season including a Grand Final and play-offs.
Some ambitious coaches are to be enrolled in a diploma course at Stirling University and paid full-time although it is admitted some may have to leave the country afterwards with only two posts to be created.
“Eventually we would like to think that with some additional professional experience gained around the world they would become serious candidates for senior roles in Scottish Rugby in the future,” say the SRU.
Although four regional academies, including in Edinburgh, are planned, only one will be set up at first.
As for funding, the SRU admit much needs still to be done.
“These proposals, if implemented fully, would represent a significant additional annual investment ... for which funding has not yet been fully sourced.
“Implementation is therefore in some cases subject to additional funding being secured.
“Further discussion with government, local authorities and interested parties, will commence in the early part of 2014. “